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Morality Isn’t Real

 
Jb8989
 
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Jb8989
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02 March 2018 05:58
 
EN - 02 March 2018 05:07 AM

The consequences of doing something considered “immoral” in a given community can be very real, and range from minor disapproval to death.  If the consequences of a particular mental construct are real, it’s hard for me to say the construct itself is not real.  You can define anything out of existence, but the fact is that concepts of morality have quite concrete and tangible effects.

It’s a slippery slope, though. While I agree that social considerations give birth to moral thinking, they also bolster irrational cultural artifacts.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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02 March 2018 07:37
 
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 05:58 AM
EN - 02 March 2018 05:07 AM

The consequences of doing something considered “immoral” in a given community can be very real, and range from minor disapproval to death.  If the consequences of a particular mental construct are real, it’s hard for me to say the construct itself is not real.  You can define anything out of existence, but the fact is that concepts of morality have quite concrete and tangible effects.

It’s a slippery slope, though. While I agree that social considerations give birth to moral thinking, they also bolster irrational cultural artifacts.

Agreed, but that does not detract from the reality of moral forces in society.  Whether it’s good or bad, response to perceived immorality is real.

 
Jb8989
 
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Jb8989
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02 March 2018 07:59
 
EN - 02 March 2018 07:37 AM
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 05:58 AM
EN - 02 March 2018 05:07 AM

The consequences of doing something considered “immoral” in a given community can be very real, and range from minor disapproval to death.  If the consequences of a particular mental construct are real, it’s hard for me to say the construct itself is not real.  You can define anything out of existence, but the fact is that concepts of morality have quite concrete and tangible effects.

It’s a slippery slope, though. While I agree that social considerations give birth to moral thinking, they also bolster irrational cultural artifacts.

Agreed, but that does not detract from the reality of moral forces in society.  Whether it’s good or bad, response to perceived immorality is real.

True that. The problem is that most people rely on their own reactions to another’s behavior to fully inform their opinion about it.

Most here taught ourselves to pause and think about it, see if we’re judging fairly (i.e. at least somewhat impartially). It forces us to look inside and outside cultural considerations.

I mean, not to beat a dead horse, but the conflation of religion with being morally ritcheous was one such social pitfall. (obviously I’m more so talking about the non-analytical theist-types than you).

 
 
Jb8989
 
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Jb8989
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02 March 2018 08:12
 
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 05:36 AM

What is real?  Everything that is real cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.  Science and logic are very important, but so are history, art, philosophy, etc.  A view of the world we live in using science alone limits one’s view of reality and the human experience.

I think it boils down to science being limited when it comes to group behavior and group-thinking. With these types of socially stratospheric considerations, prescriptive methods (to steal from BB) is the best we have. It means that manmade consequences are the driving motivations between shoulds and should-nots. And that’s because nobody can agree whether the blue print should be geared toward well-being, happiness, success or some combination. Until we understand how scientifically this all adds up better,  ambiguity reigns.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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02 March 2018 08:33
 
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 08:12 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 05:36 AM

What is real?  Everything that is real cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.  Science and logic are very important, but so are history, art, philosophy, etc.  A view of the world we live in using science alone limits one’s view of reality and the human experience.

I think it boils down to science being limited when it comes to group behavior and group-thinking. With these types of socially stratospheric considerations, prescriptive methods (to steal from BB) is the best we have. It means that manmade consequences are the driving motivations between shoulds and should-nots. And that’s because nobody can agree whether the blue print should be geared toward well-being, happiness, success or some combination. Until we understand how scientifically this all adds up better,  ambiguity reigns.

Personally, I would go even further.  I would say that science (i.e. hard science) is not the best means to describe everything and that this will always be so.  There are many different routes leading to knowledge, with science being only one (albeit an important one).

In regards to morality, science may be able to describe certain behaviours, but the whole question needs to be considered historically, anthropologically, philosophically.

[ Edited: 02 March 2018 08:49 by Jan_CAN]
 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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02 March 2018 08:52
 
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 08:33 AM
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 08:12 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 05:36 AM

What is real?  Everything that is real cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.  Science and logic are very important, but so are history, art, philosophy, etc.  A view of the world we live in using science alone limits one’s view of reality and the human experience.

I think it boils down to science being limited when it comes to group behavior and group-thinking. With these types of socially stratospheric considerations, prescriptive methods (to steal from BB) is the best we have. It means that manmade consequences are the driving motivations between shoulds and should-nots. And that’s because nobody can agree whether the blue print should be geared toward well-being, happiness, success or some combination. Until we understand how scientifically this all adds up better,  ambiguity reigns.

Personally, I would go even further.  I would say that science (i.e. hard science) is not the best means to describe everything and that this will always be so.  There are many different routes leading to knowledge, with science being only one (albeit an important one).

In regards to morality, science may be able to describe certain behaviours, but the whole question needs to be considered historically, anthropologically, philosophically.

Sounds like you just want some wiggle room to feel better about ignoring things science says that you don’t like.

 

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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02 March 2018 09:16
 
GAD - 02 March 2018 08:52 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 08:33 AM
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 08:12 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 05:36 AM

What is real?  Everything that is real cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.  Science and logic are very important, but so are history, art, philosophy, etc.  A view of the world we live in using science alone limits one’s view of reality and the human experience.

I think it boils down to science being limited when it comes to group behavior and group-thinking. With these types of socially stratospheric considerations, prescriptive methods (to steal from BB) is the best we have. It means that manmade consequences are the driving motivations between shoulds and should-nots. And that’s because nobody can agree whether the blue print should be geared toward well-being, happiness, success or some combination. Until we understand how scientifically this all adds up better,  ambiguity reigns.

Personally, I would go even further.  I would say that science (i.e. hard science) is not the best means to describe everything and that this will always be so.  There are many different routes leading to knowledge, with science being only one (albeit an important one).

In regards to morality, science may be able to describe certain behaviours, but the whole question needs to be considered historically, anthropologically, philosophically.

Sounds like you just want some wiggle room to feel better about ignoring things science says that you don’t like.

Not at all – I just don’t regard science as the only method to answer certain types of questions.  Questions regarding, for example ‘morality’, have many different aspects which can and should be discussed, studied and addressed from different perspectives.  Science will answer many questions, but it isn’t a god.

 
 
Jb8989
 
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Jb8989
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02 March 2018 09:20
 
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 08:33 AM
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 08:12 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 05:36 AM

What is real?  Everything that is real cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.  Science and logic are very important, but so are history, art, philosophy, etc.  A view of the world we live in using science alone limits one’s view of reality and the human experience.

I think it boils down to science being limited when it comes to group behavior and group-thinking. With these types of socially stratospheric considerations, prescriptive methods (to steal from BB) is the best we have. It means that manmade consequences are the driving motivations between shoulds and should-nots. And that’s because nobody can agree whether the blue print should be geared toward well-being, happiness, success or some combination. Until we understand how scientifically this all adds up better,  ambiguity reigns.

Personally, I would go even further.  I would say that science (i.e. hard science) is not the best means to describe everything and that this will always be so.  There are many different routes leading to knowledge, with science being only one (albeit an important one).

In regards to morality, science may be able to describe certain behaviours, but the whole question needs to be considered historically, anthropologically, philosophically.

Where science comes up short, soft sciences fill the gaps. But those doctrines rely heavily on group feedback, which, if a person can be irrational, groups can be really irrational. I’m not saying that they don’t provide solid baselines, like equity, justice, fairness and empathy; I’m just saying that at some point they become more about social control than individual well being. And there, IMO, is where the majority of moral disagreement and conflict arises.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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02 March 2018 09:32
 
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 09:20 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 08:33 AM
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 08:12 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 05:36 AM

What is real?  Everything that is real cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.  Science and logic are very important, but so are history, art, philosophy, etc.  A view of the world we live in using science alone limits one’s view of reality and the human experience.

I think it boils down to science being limited when it comes to group behavior and group-thinking. With these types of socially stratospheric considerations, prescriptive methods (to steal from BB) is the best we have. It means that manmade consequences are the driving motivations between shoulds and should-nots. And that’s because nobody can agree whether the blue print should be geared toward well-being, happiness, success or some combination. Until we understand how scientifically this all adds up better,  ambiguity reigns.

Personally, I would go even further.  I would say that science (i.e. hard science) is not the best means to describe everything and that this will always be so.  There are many different routes leading to knowledge, with science being only one (albeit an important one).

In regards to morality, science may be able to describe certain behaviours, but the whole question needs to be considered historically, anthropologically, philosophically.

Where science comes up short, soft sciences fill the gaps. But those doctrines rely heavily on group feedback, which, if a person can be irrational, groups can be really irrational. I’m not saying that they don’t provide solid baselines, like equity, justice, fairness and empathy; I’m just saying that at some point they become more about social control than individual well being. And there, IMO, is where the majority of moral disagreement and conflict arises.

I don’t disagree, just don’t s see how hard science will ever be able to fully describe or explain soft issues.  Although the soft sciences may not be as precise, they may be just as able to provide us with useful knowledge.

 

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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02 March 2018 09:36
 
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 09:16 AM
GAD - 02 March 2018 08:52 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 08:33 AM
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 08:12 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 05:36 AM

What is real?  Everything that is real cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.  Science and logic are very important, but so are history, art, philosophy, etc.  A view of the world we live in using science alone limits one’s view of reality and the human experience.

I think it boils down to science being limited when it comes to group behavior and group-thinking. With these types of socially stratospheric considerations, prescriptive methods (to steal from BB) is the best we have. It means that manmade consequences are the driving motivations between shoulds and should-nots. And that’s because nobody can agree whether the blue print should be geared toward well-being, happiness, success or some combination. Until we understand how scientifically this all adds up better,  ambiguity reigns.

Personally, I would go even further.  I would say that science (i.e. hard science) is not the best means to describe everything and that this will always be so.  There are many different routes leading to knowledge, with science being only one (albeit an important one).

In regards to morality, science may be able to describe certain behaviours, but the whole question needs to be considered historically, anthropologically, philosophically.

Sounds like you just want some wiggle room to feel better about ignoring things science says that you don’t like.

Not at all – I just don’t regard science as the only method to answer certain types of questions.  Questions regarding, for example ‘morality’, have many different aspects which can and should be discussed, studied and addressed from different perspectives.  Science will answer many questions, but it isn’t a god.

Except morality, like gods, is a human invention and completely subjective, so yeah, it is hard for science to keep up with the made up, that is better suited to the kumbaya method of reasoning.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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02 March 2018 09:47
 
GAD - 02 March 2018 09:36 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 09:16 AM
GAD - 02 March 2018 08:52 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 08:33 AM
Jb8989 - 02 March 2018 08:12 AM
Jan_CAN - 02 March 2018 05:36 AM

What is real?  Everything that is real cannot be measured or seen under a microscope.  Science and logic are very important, but so are history, art, philosophy, etc.  A view of the world we live in using science alone limits one’s view of reality and the human experience.

I think it boils down to science being limited when it comes to group behavior and group-thinking. With these types of socially stratospheric considerations, prescriptive methods (to steal from BB) is the best we have. It means that manmade consequences are the driving motivations between shoulds and should-nots. And that’s because nobody can agree whether the blue print should be geared toward well-being, happiness, success or some combination. Until we understand how scientifically this all adds up better,  ambiguity reigns.

Personally, I would go even further.  I would say that science (i.e. hard science) is not the best means to describe everything and that this will always be so.  There are many different routes leading to knowledge, with science being only one (albeit an important one).

In regards to morality, science may be able to describe certain behaviours, but the whole question needs to be considered historically, anthropologically, philosophically.

Sounds like you just want some wiggle room to feel better about ignoring things science says that you don’t like.

Not at all – I just don’t regard science as the only method to answer certain types of questions.  Questions regarding, for example ‘morality’, have many different aspects which can and should be discussed, studied and addressed from different perspectives.  Science will answer many questions, but it isn’t a god.

Except morality, like gods, is a human invention and completely subjective, so yeah, it is hard for science to keep up with the made up, that is better suited to the kumbaya method of reasoning.

Exactly ... we need the kumbaya sciences for some of this stuff.

 
 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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02 March 2018 10:36
 

Regarding the study of morality - I just want to point out that I don’t think anyone really argues that it can’t be studied at all, from a sociocultural, anthropological perspective. To simply dismiss that out of hand would be similar to dismissing economics and linguistics, to my mind. What people argue about is whether anyone has a right to make any kind of prescriptive claim (You ‘ought’ to…), but as I’ve learned more about the topic I’ve begun to think this is an interesting aside, a ‘tree falling in the woods’ kind of question, and not really central to morality in the real world. Should we have systems of money? Should we have language? You probably can’t get an ought from an is there, either, but so what? That has little to do with human activity in the real world.


Admittedly my take relies on the idea that moral evolution follows a relatively universal path. If you believe that moral intuitions are entirely pell mell or, as Harris seems to be believe, easily subverted for no particular reason, then no, this idea wouldn’t hold. If you believe that morality follows relatively similar stages of development across different times and places, then incongruent ideas can mostly be explained by environmental factors (few resources, high risk areas, etc.).


As an aside, I feel it is interesting watching the development of morality around animal rights changing within my lifetime. When I first started working, we would laugh when we saw old sets of flashcards for children that contained the picture or word ‘gun’. Gun?! On learning materials for children? What were they thinking in the 70s?! And now I find myself going through a similar process with meat products. Granted, I am probably a bit of an outlier on that, but my prediction is that this will not be uncommon for many people in the next couple of decades. If there is a flashcard of ‘chicken’ that shows raw meat I will hurriedly skip past it as if it were something obscene. If a child points to a picture of an ambiguous burger, I’ll call it a veggie burger (hey, it could be.) This would not have occurred to me at all ten years ago. But I think this intuition is pretty predictable when it comes to progressively expanding circles of concern. Animal welfare is not necessarily going to be a top priority if food is scarce and you are living a few meals away from starvation. In the absence of a compelling competing concern (human starvation) however, the idea occurs to us pretty quickly. Again, this is not a random progression of events, from my perspective.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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04 March 2018 20:13
 
NL. - 02 March 2018 10:36 AM

Regarding the study of morality - I just want to point out that I don’t think anyone really argues that it can’t be studied at all, from a sociocultural, anthropological perspective. To simply dismiss that out of hand would be similar to dismissing economics and linguistics, to my mind. What people argue about is whether anyone has a right to make any kind of prescriptive claim (You ‘ought’ to…), but as I’ve learned more about the topic I’ve begun to think this is an interesting aside, a ‘tree falling in the woods’ kind of question, and not really central to morality in the real world. Should we have systems of money? Should we have language? You probably can’t get an ought from an is there, either, but so what? That has little to do with human activity in the real world.


Admittedly my take relies on the idea that moral evolution follows a relatively universal path. If you believe that moral intuitions are entirely pell mell or, as Harris seems to be believe, easily subverted for no particular reason, then no, this idea wouldn’t hold. If you believe that morality follows relatively similar stages of development across different times and places, then incongruent ideas can mostly be explained by environmental factors (few resources, high risk areas, etc.).


As an aside, I feel it is interesting watching the development of morality around animal rights changing within my lifetime. When I first started working, we would laugh when we saw old sets of flashcards for children that contained the picture or word ‘gun’. Gun?! On learning materials for children? What were they thinking in the 70s?! And now I find myself going through a similar process with meat products. Granted, I am probably a bit of an outlier on that, but my prediction is that this will not be uncommon for many people in the next couple of decades. If there is a flashcard of ‘chicken’ that shows raw meat I will hurriedly skip past it as if it were something obscene. If a child points to a picture of an ambiguous burger, I’ll call it a veggie burger (hey, it could be.) This would not have occurred to me at all ten years ago. But I think this intuition is pretty predictable when it comes to progressively expanding circles of concern. Animal welfare is not necessarily going to be a top priority if food is scarce and you are living a few meals away from starvation. In the absence of a compelling competing concern (human starvation) however, the idea occurs to us pretty quickly. Again, this is not a random progression of events, from my perspective.

I feel there is an element of chaos to moral intuition. Empirically people are stridently concerned and protective of all manner of concepts. Everyone I know well has some array of idiosyncratic passions or phobias. I believe that this is true of people in general but not apparent without a degree of intimacy. There are universals or at least broad commonalities as well of course but the project of moral realism is definitely complicated by the fact that the set of things people care about is personal to them.

I’m not sure if there is a stable evolutionary explanation for this. I’ve read essays about how and why people are evolved to appreciate variety. There are selective reasons why we have different sexual preferences; as one example. Our appreciation of food, visual arts, music and other things certainly doesn’t seem to have much uniformity from person to person. I feel this is contiguous with our differences of moral intuition. We protect what we care about. We attack what we find threatening. It would be comforting to imagine we are somehow objectively correct to make these judgments and we are to the degree that we are true to ourselves but I’m uncertain if there is a deeper truth. I suspect there is not.

 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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04 March 2018 22:04
 
Brick Bungalow - 04 March 2018 08:13 PM

I feel there is an element of chaos to moral intuition. Empirically people are stridently concerned and protective of all manner of concepts. Everyone I know well has some array of idiosyncratic passions or phobias. I believe that this is true of people in general but not apparent without a degree of intimacy. There are universals or at least broad commonalities as well of course but the project of moral realism is definitely complicated by the fact that the set of things people care about is personal to them.

I’m not sure if there is a stable evolutionary explanation for this. I’ve read essays about how and why people are evolved to appreciate variety. There are selective reasons why we have different sexual preferences; as one example. Our appreciation of food, visual arts, music and other things certainly doesn’t seem to have much uniformity from person to person. I feel this is contiguous with our differences of moral intuition. We protect what we care about. We attack what we find threatening. It would be comforting to imagine we are somehow objectively correct to make these judgments and we are to the degree that we are true to ourselves but I’m uncertain if there is a deeper truth. I suspect there is not.


Well, I would agree that whether or not there is a deeper truth in a truly universal sense is questionable (Would aliens or AI necessarily have to care about the same things we care about, in an inevitable formulaic way? I’m agnostic.) but I disagree when it comes to humans. Granted, I don’t actually find it all that comforting in a big picture sense to say “Hey, don’t worry! Humans, by happenstance, evolved along such similar narrative lines that while morality may be entirely pell mell in the big picture, it happens to be aligned well enough for our purposes now!” (I have heard Harris say things that I feel allude to this, along the lines of “Well, there are sociopaths, but we can rule them out and look at everybody else.” To my mind that’s like saying “Well, gravity works for most people, so let’s talk about the laws of physics”. It works or it doesn’t work. You wouldn’t sell children’s toys with the reassurance that only some small percentage of them explode, for goodness sakes. Any morality that is worth having should apply as a universal law to everyone, to my mind.) However, while the idea that morality might not be universal causes me a lot of existential angst, that is neither here nor there on the topic of whether or not human morality - again, either by formula or happenstance - is pretty uniform. And I would say it is, you just have to zoom out a little bit more to account for variation.


When you say that people have different sexual preferences, for example, or different tastes in food, visual arts, or music - I mean… how different, really? As a species, we still seem to find it wildly unique when two sapiens of the same gender want to mate. I mean, seriously, if you look at something like 100% entropy (which, thanks to Anil Seth, I now know means “the number of possible states a system can be in”,) is saying “Men and women can be together… or… men and men can be together! Or women and women!” all that many states? I think that totals three all together, and again, humankind already often considers this - three different states - scandalous. Same for taste in music, food, art and so on. I doubt the statistical range for such things is actually that broad - and even where it is, as in cases of things like pica, disorders themselves tend to have predictable shapes, trajectories, and features.

 
 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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05 March 2018 08:29
 

An addendum to the above… I realize that may sound contrary to some of the other things I’ve said, as I have said I find interpersonal difference quite uncomfortable at a social level. A lot of the times I just don’t seem to be interested in the common topics others are interested in - it’s hard to start a casual conversation with “So, do you feel the nature of reality is dualistic, monistic, or neither dualistic or monistic? I’ve spent hours thinking about this, and assume you have as well. So… thoughts?”


That said, it occurs to me that I very rarely feel this kind of tension with morality. That’s not to say there aren’t those few hot button issues (gay rights, abortion, etc.) where I realize I will have to take a stance that some significant percentage of people will disagree with. And it’s not to say that everyone I’ve ever met actually lives up to the ideals of standard morality - but whether they do or not, they still hold the same ideals, at least hypothetically. It’s just that it would be extremely typical for me to walk into a new workplace and think “I don’t know what to talk about with people”. It would be extremely rare for me to walk into a new workplace and think “I don’t share the same moral code as other people here.”

 
 
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